Modern Quilting with Layer Cake Half Square Triangles
Quilting with Layer Cake HSTs
Modern quilting with layer cake half square triangles takes advantage of using time saving precuts along with the Magic 8 Method to make lots of HSTs in a very short time. I’ve had fun using fat quarters to make large and small HSTs to quilt with, but now it’s time to give a layer cake a try, too.
This beautiful little bundle of fabric has been waiting patiently for me since early summer. A plan was developing but not clearly enough to start quilting just yet. After recently completing a couple HST quilts, I knew that’s what this layer cake was destined for. The metallic highlights looked great and I wanted to carry that into the background. Luckily, I had the perfect cream fabric on hand with a metallic design to compliment the focal fabrics. The plan came full circle.
Quilting with Layer Cakes
Now for the plan to pull it all together. The background colors of the 10” layer cake squares were grouped into four different colorways to slightly vary the look. I wanted the red prints to dominate the quilt top design, with the green used as an accent and the black to be a bold contrast. The cream pieces would be blended into the background. With the color considerations figured out, it’s time to determine the design.
HSTs are amazingly versatile and create so many different block patterns. For this quilt though, I didn’t want repeating blocks. I wanted an all over design that focused on a center star with everything else radiating out from there. Playing with some graph paper helped me visualize just what I wanted to do.
The center star would be red, gold and black. That idea led to a bold black inner border to direct the focus on the center’s design. To emphasize the distinction on either side of the black inner border, the HSTs would be different sizes. Keeping the smaller squares within the black border, the outer squares would be much larger and fill out the quilt to the edge. These larger HSTs would be used to create some great design elements that are just fun to look at.
Quite honestly, I couldn’t decide which layout I liked best so decided to use multiple options. The different sizes create a distinct change and brings in a lot of interest as you view the quilt.
Modern Quilting with Layer Cake Half Square Triangles Requires Lots of HSTs
How to Make Half Square Triangles with Precuts
Modern quilting with layer cake half square triangles focuses on making lots of HSTs easily and quickly so more time can be focused on the quilt top design. HSTs block patterns are endless and can be modified for your own design. But as I did here, you can also choose to forgo the standardized patterns and create a unique layout just for you.
Any reading about HSTs seems to involve charts, formulas or calculations. I don’t want to make it that difficult. As long as all my squares are the same size they will sew together perfectly. Therefore, using precuts is great because the hard work of cutting is done. Now I just need to mark, sew and cut! And don’t forget the trimming. A bit tedious but so necessary.
Of course, there are multiple ways to make HSTs with precuts depending on which size you begin with. Layer cakes will make eight HST squares that measure 4” finished. That means you are sewing 4 ½” blocks together. It’s a great size to work with, large enough to see the individual fabrics and plenty of blocks to create an interesting design.
For detailed instructions, check out Modern Fat Quarter Quilting with Half Square Triangles where you’ll find plenty of pictures to refer to. You may also want to check out a smaller HST Mini Quilt, too.
How to use the Magic 8 Method with Precuts
The last two HST quilts I made were with fat quarters. I made some very large HSTs into a chevron pattern, and some much smaller HSTs into a small around-the-world layout. Both sizes turned out very well.
This time the layer cake precuts will make fast work of all the HSTs needed for this quilt top. But don’t cut all your HSTs just yet, as there will be some variance in block sizes outside the dominant black border.
The magic 8 method was used on about half of the layer cake 10” squares. These 4 ½” trimmed blocks were used to make the star and other design elements within the black block border. I used a larger solid block for the center of the star simply to show off the flowers. You can just as easily use sixteen 4 ½’ blocks to make up the star including the center block.
The black border blocks and all the other HSTs that extend to the outer edges are 8 ½” HSTs. These were cut from 9” squares. Each pair of 9” squares was marked with a diagonal line, in one direction from corner to corner. Then once sewn with a ¼” seam on each side of the line, the block was cut in half along the drawn line and trimmed. The resulting 8 ½” blocks equal the same size as two sewn 4 ½” blocks. This makes everything line up perfectly for easy sewing.
Making eight HSTs at one time speeds up your piecing time immensely. Then, add the convenience of using layer cakes, and you’ll have more HSTs than you can quilt! For clear, concise, easy to read directions with great diagrams to follow see the Moda Bake Shop diagrams on their blog.
How to Design a Layout with Two Different Size HST Blocks
Add Some Drama to Your Quilt Layout
Mixing block sizes within a quilt top can create a dramatic effect. The smaller 4 ½” HST blocks within the black border have a tighter pattern as the color changes between blocks. The larger 8 ½” HST blocks bring color to a bigger area with more emphasis on that particular color.
Additionally, similar colors were grouped for even more emphasis. First the black border really sets off the center star design as the focal image that draws initial attention. Then the outer blocks shift between colors as different geometric patterns go in various directions.
Combining the same version of a block in two different sizes creates a level of balance to play with too. You’ll notice that the larger, outer blocks appear heavier and create a frame for the smaller, interior star pattern. This is the first time I’ve use the same block in two different sizes this way, and I really like how it turned out.
Piecing Your Quilt Layout with Two Different Size HST Blocks
When using different size blocks in your quilt top, you need to be sure they will fit together and match up evenly as these blocks do. Also be sure to keep a consistent seam allowance so you don’t come up short on your smaller squares.
While an 8” finished block is cut to measure 8 ½”, the smaller blocks have more seams which needs to be accounted for when cutting. Since there will be a seam in the center going both directions, the initial block needs to be a full inch larger than the finished size. Then when the seams are sewn, the resulting 4-patch equals 8 ½”, a perfect fit!
Pre-sewing Equally Sized Strips Eases Final Assembly
Note in this photo that the quilt was preassembled into four equal strips. The change in size and design can be confusing if trying to piece it together all at once. This worked out much easier for me and made assembly more manageable. Do you see the ‘mistake’ in the final set of four strips? Instead of the chevron pattern, I turned a couple red blocks the wrong way and ended up with a diamond.
Since I don’t like to rip out a seam unless it’s absolutely necessary, I decided that the unexpected red diamond plays off the larger diamonds in the center. It’s also a bit unexpected which I like. Therefore, it stayed!
Other Ideas for Modern Quilting with Layer Cake Half Square Triangles
Does this pattern inspire some fun ideas for you? There’s a gorgeous bright tropical layer cake I want to use next with this pattern. It’ll be fun to see how differently that color scheme will look. I’m thinking about creating a pattern for this quilt if there’s interest. Let me know what you think.